Boys Varsity Football
It’s a new season of Columbus North football, and the Bull Dogs appear ready with a ground-oriented offense and a capable defense.
Coming off an 8-2 season that included an undefeated Conference Indiana championship, the 2019 Bull Dogs look to an attack that will feature junior tailback Blake Huffman, senior quarterback Hunter Huser and a receiving corps that includes senior Giovani Alejandro, junior Eshaan Patel, junior Charlie Winick and senior tight end Mitchel Collier.
The defense is headed by Collier and senior Montez Mitchell up front, seniors Landon Robbins and Nick Holt at linebacker and senior Daveed Jolley in the secondary. Senior Jackson Payne is another veteran linebacker, but he will be out until mid-season after suffering an injury in the spring.
“The strength of our team will be at the line of scrimmage and in our running game,” CN coach Tim Bless said. “On defense, our strength is in our front seven and we are having strong competition for playing time in the back half. We expect our kicking game to be rock solid with both Carter Ward and Spencer Rivera.”
Huffman returns as the feature back after running for 1,231 yards and six touchdowns on 224 attempts as a sophomore. He is complemented in the backfield by Jolley, who ran for 80 yards and four TDs on 18 carries, and junior Royce Lofton, who excelled for the 2018 junior varsity squad.
Huser shifts to quarterback after playing as a wide receiver, defensive back and return specialist as a junior. He has played quarterback earlier in his career and offers a nifty, shifty style to the position. Huffman also is the top returning receiver after totaling 28 catches for 314 yards and three TDs last season. Alejandro added eight catches for 133 yards and two scores, while Collier had 10 receptions for 94 yards.
The offense will rely on its group of blockers for its ultimate success. Junior Isaac Woodruff appears set at center, while senior Dalton Kirk, senior Jackson Davis and junior Mason Branstetter are three players vying for the two guard positions. Similary, junior J.J. Montgomery, senior Alex Russell and junior Elijah Sebastian are three players set to play the tackle spots. Collier is another key blocker from his tight end position, while junior Reed Duncan should contribute as an H-back and tight end.
Defensively, senior Luke McDonald, senior Rashan Wells and junior Nate Austerman are top contenders for the interior line spots. Collier, Mitchell and senior Adam Behling all should see time at the defensive end spots. Robbins, Holt, Lofton and junior Luke Bless are key among the linebackers. Jolley, Winick, senior Nash Johnson, junior Jamal King, junior Avrin Holt and junior Marquise Mixon receive opportunities in the secondary.
Robbins totaled a team-leading 72 tackles with five tackles for loss, five passes broken up and one fumble recovery last season. Payne totaled 70 tackles with two TFLs, two sacks and two PBUs, while Mitchell provided 61 tackles with four TFLS, one sack and one PBU.
Collier contributed 39 tackles with two TFLs, three sacks and three PBUs, while Jolley added 36 tackles, six PBUs and one interception. Holt tallied 23 tackles with one TFL, one interception and one fumble recovery, while Lofton had 11 tackles and McDonald notched nine tackles with three TFLs and one fumble recovery.
Ward converted 15-of-16 extra points plus 4-of-4 field goals, while Rivera was 24-of-25 on PATs and 5-of-8 on field goals. Both also can contribute as a punter and in kickoff formation.
A challenging schedule starts Friday against powerhouse Avon at 8:30 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium. The annual rivalry game against Columbus East is at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 at Stafford Field, and Conference Indiana play begins against Southport at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at Max Andress Field.
Non-conference games follow at Roncalli on Sept. 13 and at home against Guerin Catholic on Sept. 20. CI play then resumes Sept. 27 at Terre Haute North, Oct. 4 at home with Bloomington South, Oct. 11 at Bloomington North and Oct. 18 at home with Terre Haute South.
There will be two “Bless Bowls” this season with CN facing Avon, coached by Mark Bless, and Bloomington North, coached by Scott Bless. Both are brothers of Bull Dogs coach Tim Bless.
Overall, Tim Bless is encouraged by his squad.
“We’ve had very good attendance and effort throughout all of the off season and preseason practice,” he said. “We do have new personnel in various spots, so we are working to determine our real identity. But the pieces are in place to have a good season.”
Ticket and special event information
Admission at regular-season home sports events is $6 per person beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.
There are several special events planned in conjunction with upcoming football games. They include:
>> Aug. 23 vs. Avon in Lucas Oil Stadium: This game is part of the annual Horseshoe Classic at the home of the Indianapolis Colts. Start time will be about 8:30 p.m. Fishers faces North Central in the first game at 6 p.m. Tickets purchased in advance at the Columbus North athletic office are $10 per person. Tickets purchased at the door on game day are $13 per person. This is the fourth time that Columbus North will have played in Lucas Oil Stadium. Previous games were in 2009 (28-27 victory over Bloomington North), 2011 (a 42-30 setback to Lawrence Central) and 2017 (a 23-0 victory over Bloomington South).
>> Aug. 30 at Columbus East. This game is part of the “Great American Rivalry Series,” a group of games across the nation that are designated as such. The winning team receives a trophy and one player in each game is named an MVP. One player from each team receives a Rivalry Scholar Student-Athlete Scholarship Award. This is the 16th year for the Great American Rivalry Series. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Stafford Field.
>> Sept. 6 vs. Southport. This is the Conference Indiana opener and has been designated a “Coaches vs. Cancer” game and “Youth and Middle School Night.” With regard to “Coaches vs. Cancer,” Custom T-shirts noting the CN-Southport contest will be available for $12 for one shirt or $20 for two shirts. Net proceeds from the T-shirt sales will go to the American Cancer Society. As for the “Youth and Middle School Night,” players from local youth teams as well as Central Middle School and Northside Middle School will be admitted for free if they are wearing a team jersey or team shirt. In addition, the 1959 Columbus High undefeated football team will be recognized at this game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Max Andress Field.
>> Sept. 20 vs. Guerin Catholic. This is the annual homecoming game. A variety of festivities are included through the school week, including the naming of a homecoming king and homecoming queen. The queen is announced at halftime of the football game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Max Andress Field.
>> Oct. 18 vs. Terre Haute South. This is Senior Night. Twenty senior football players and two football senior managers/student trainers will be recognized in conjunction with the final Conference Indiana game. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.. at Max Andress Field.
PHOTO: Landon Robbins (46) dives to make a play against Bloomington South in 2018. Robbins totaled a team-leading 72 tackles with five tackles for loss, five passes broken up and one fumble recovery last season.